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Film Clips

Fool's Gold among capsule reviews of films playing in Charlotte

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HOW SHE MOVE A thoughtful, heartfelt drama that can't quite get past the conventions of its plot mechanics, How She Move is the latest dance flick in which motion trumps emotion. That's not to say there isn't a certain amount of poignancy in the central plotline of a young teen hoping to break free of her dire surroundings – it's just that this picture only truly comes alive when its talented young cast is strutting its stuff in rhythm to the music. Reminiscent not only of dance yarns like Take the Lead and the documentary Rize but also of straightforward dramas like Girlfight and Akeelah and the Bee, How She Move focuses on African-American teenager Raya (Rutina Wesley), a student at a private school who's forced to move back to her impoverished neighborhood after her parents spend all the family funds trying (and failing) to save Raya's drug-addicted sister. Deemed stuck-up by Michelle (Tre Armstrong), a sullen classmate with a perpetual chip on her shoulder, Raya tries to keep her head down and solely concentrate on her studies, but she ends up getting drawn back into the world of stepping, a high-energy form of dancing practiced by both Michelle and Bishop (Dwain Murphy), a charismatic guy who hesitantly allows Raya to join his dance team just in time for the annual Step Monster competition. The screenplay by Annmarie Morais saddles the characters with too many scenes revolving around tired dialogue, but director Ian Iqbal Rashid compensates by staging the vigorous dance scenes as if his life – or at least his career – depended on it. **1/2

MAD MONEY Around this time last year, moviegoers were suffering through Because I Said So, a Diane Keaton vehicle so horrific that it barely got beat out by License to Wed for the top spot on my year-end 10 Worst list. Luckily, Keaton's new film is much better, simply by virtue of the fact that I wasn't tempted to cram a gun muzzle into my mouth this time around. Keaton stars as Bridget Cardigan, an upper-middle-class wife reeling from that fact that her husband Don (Ted Danson, very good in his best role in ages) has lost his job and they may now be in danger of losing their home and comfortable lifestyle. As a temporary solution, Bridget takes a job as a cleaning lady at the Federal Reserve Bank, where she eventually devises an elaborate scheme to steal the worn-out bills marked for destruction in the building's shredding facilities. She enlists the aid of two co-workers, sensible single mom Nina (Queen Latifah) and vivacious party girl Jackie (Katie Holmes), and the trio set about pulling off the most unlikely of heists. A remake of a 2001 British TV-movie called Hot Money (never made available in this country), Mad Money is a generally entertaining picture, even as it dabbles in implausibilities and often fails to get a firm grasp on its characters. Are there better ways for film fans to spend their own money than using it on Mad Money? Certainly. But there are also worse ways. They could be renting Because I Said So. **1/2

THE SAVAGES How interesting that 2007 produced two pictures about Alzheimer's that approached the subject from diametrically opposite points. Sarah Polley's Away From Her was about a man who dearly loved his wife and was devastated as the disease created an unbreachable gap between them. Tamara Jenkins' The Savages is about siblings who dislike their dad and are upset that circumstances dictate they be responsible for his well-being. Away From Her was a straightforward drama, but The Savages is a black comedy that frequently goes down like the most bitter coffee imaginable. Philip Bosco plays the father figure around which the action stirs: Found smearing his own excrement on the bathroom walls of his Arizona residence, he's eventually placed into the hands of his distant – both geographically and emotionally – offspring, Jon and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney). Jon's a college professor in Buffalo, while Wendy's an aspiring writer in New York City; neither one has the time nor the inclination to take care of the old man – more so since by all accounts he made their childhoods miserable – and they squabble about the best way to handle the situation. Jenkins' screenplay is sometimes too smug for its own good – her reverence for the elderly seems so sincere in many of the film's best passages that it's startling when she occasionally uses these folks for cheap comic effect – but overall, The Savages is a keenly observed study offering believably bruised people making the best out of their rickety lives. The two leads are equally superb. ***

THERE WILL BE BLOOD I'm not sure Daniel Day-Lewis' performance represents the best acting of 2007, but it certainly represents the most acting of the past year. Then again, his oversized turn is right in line with Paul Thomas Anderson's oversized ambitions in creating a modern-day masterpiece, a movie so audacious that it flagrantly apes Citizen Kane and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre at various points. But Anderson's latest isn't even up to the standards of what I consider his real masterpiece, the dazzling, dizzying Boogie Nights, though there's enough here to please adventurous moviegoers. Based on Upton Sinclair's Oil! this centers on Daniel Plainview (Day-Lewis), a powerful oilman who has an adopted son in young H.W. (Dillon Freasier) and a nemesis in unctuous preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). There Will Be Blood, therefore, is a story about the feud between Plainview and Eli that doubles as the battle between bald capitalism and insincere spirituality (in that respect, the movie could be set today), as well as a more personal tale involving Plainview and his adopted boy. That the former plotline is more interesting than the latter throws the film off balance, a flaw accentuated by the fact that no attempt to understand Plainview provides the film with a hollow center that separates it from the likes of Citizen Kane and Sierra Madre (wherein we cared about their protagonists even after they took leave of their senses). Still, the picture is a beauty to behold, and there are individual sequences so staggering that a second viewing will hardly be a chore. ***


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